Baby Camel: Accepted

Posted at 11:03 am September 14, 2010 by Laura Weiner

It has been a while since my last blog post about Tuya, our baby Bactrian camel (see Baby Camel: Unexpected Encounter). Since then she has been weaned and introduced to both of our adult camels, Mongo and Mouse.

We started off with the three-year-old female, Mouse, since we expected her to be less aggressive with Tuya. Camels investigate new things by biting, chasing, and kicking at them; Tuya was no exception. Mouse started off smelling her and then would start chasing her, trying to bite her rear end in the process. We stood at the ready, just in case we needed to intervene and separate them.

Camels are also followers, so when one gets excited, they all get excited. Tuya would start running or kicking, which would cause Mouse to do the same. Of course, at this point Mouse weighed 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) and Tuya was only 300 pounds (136 kilograms)—a huge difference! Thankfully, Tuya is very fast and can change direction quickly, which helped the situation. She was able to run out of the way of Mouse’s flailing limbs. It was quite a sight to see!

Within a few days the interactions were increasingly calm, and we felt the two of them could be left alone. They both did quite well, and we actually found them cuddled up next to each other in the morning.

When it was time to introduce Mongo, we weren’t sure what to expect. He is a large male (almost 2,000 pounds or 900 kilograms), and sometimes adult males can be aggressive. We weren’t sure if he recognized Tuya as his own offspring, but she is a female, so that helped. Mongo does not like any other males around his girls.

Mongo and Mouse had a somewhat unstable relationship before Tuya was born, and we wanted to make sure Tuya didn’t wind up in the middle of a chasing session. Tuya actually proved to be a great distraction for Mongo, and Mouse was able to eat and relax in peace. Mongo was, at first, quite interested in this small camel. He sniffed, chased, and did some half-hearted tries at biting. But mostly he behaved himself like a gentleman, as much as a camel can! Tuya enjoyed spending time with her dad and would hang out near him whenever she could.

Tuya has now been accepted completely into the herd, and Mouse has even gained the confidence to yell and spit at Mongo. In the camel world, that is a good thing! She stands up to him, and usually he just backs down, a huge improvement from their previous relationship. And Tuya has followed suit, yelling and spitting at her dad, all things I have been thrilled to see! Tuya knows she is a camel and acts accordingly.

Laura Weiner is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

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9 Responses to “Baby Camel: Accepted”

  1. Dianna from Ohio says:

    Has Tuya outgrown her green halter? Has her humps filled in yet? Is the herd just the 3 of them? Maybe sometime a video could be made of them? Thanks! Dianna

  2. Shirley Sykes says:

    That’s lovely news, Laura. I’ve noticed Tuya in the field with the two adults, and all seemed going well; glad to have it confirmed. Does Tuya still bawl/bray loudly when she’s hungry, now that she’s weaned?

  3. Mae was from NJ says:

    Yelling and spitting at her dad – all proper behavior (for a young camel). Well, I never!! LOL.

    I enjoyed reading about Tuya’s acceptance into the herd. The keepers did a great job easing her into herd. Glad there were no problem after the initial biting, running, and kicking.

    I’ve also seen human babies yell and spit at their parents…..

  4. Laura says:

    Hi Dianna,
    Tuya just recently outgrew her green halter and has moved into a nice black one. Her humps are uneven but still very cute. The rear one has always been nice and full since it started growing but the front one is a bit floppy. I hope one day it will stand up but if not, it is just part of her charm. The herd is Mongo, Mouse and Tuya.

    Hi Shirley,
    Tuya has actually been quiet lately. She did have a few weeks where she was making many vocalizations that sounded quite funny. We would laugh, and I am sure she did not find it funny at all. Her diet keeps her full now, and she has accepted that the milk has run dry, so to speak.

    Thank you all for your interest in her. She has been a joy!

  5. Marilyn in California says:

    “Tuya was only 300 pounds…” — now that’s small! LOL

  6. BonnieOH says:

    Must be so funny to see, all the yelling spitting…..at least in the camel world! So interesting to read about this little camel learning who she really is and fitting in so well.

  7. Diana S. says:

    Thank you for the update! It is so nice to keep up with the little ones and how they are progressing. How comical it must be to watch them!

  8. Lizzie says:

    Does Tuya have an eye infection? I just saw her today, and something is draining from her right eye in all my photos. She’s getting so big, but still runs around the exhibit kicking up her heels like a kid. What a cutie!

  9. Laura Weiner says:

    #8 Lizzie

    Camels have very watery eyes (probably to help keep out the sand) and normally have some tears running out of them. I will check her eye out, but it is most likely the normal camel eye.